California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

fish and game commission logoAt its August 19-20 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The Commission began a rulemaking process to extend the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery.

The Commission began a rulemaking process to amend regulations to allow, for a period of three years, both the unlimited recreational take of purple urchins at Caspar Cove in Mendocino County, and the unlimited recreational take of red and purple urchins at Tanker Reef in Monterey County.

The Commission determined that listing Pacific leatherback sea turtle as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the Pacific leatherback sea turtle is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

After presentations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the petitioner, and comments from stakeholders and the public, the Commission continued to a future meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under CESA may be warranted. While Commission members expressed support for moving forward with the listing process, the decision was continued to next month to allow time to develop options that could keep critical projects moving forward if the tree becomes a candidate species. Commissioner Russell Burns recused himself from this decision. The future meeting to consider whether listing is warranted will be announced through the Commission’s electronic mailing list.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva – was present.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. With the exception of the special meeting that will be scheduled in September (see western Joshua tree information above), the next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for October 14-15, 2020.

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California Fish and Game Commission Holds June Meeting Remotely

At its June remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

The Commission acknowledged the sesquicentennial of the beginnings of the Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Staff had long been preparing celebratory activities throughout the year, but due to the global pandemic, those events were canceled. A video was shared at the Commission to honor the past 150 years of protecting and conserving fish and wildlife in the state.

After conversations with the petitioner and other stakeholders, the Commission continued to its August meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted.

The Commission and CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Adam Kook as 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Kook is a Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend inland sport fishing regulations. The simplification of statewide inland fishing comes after immense effort by CDFW Fisheries Branch to clarify overlapping and often confusing regulations.

The Commission adopted commercial Pacific herring eggs on kelp regulations to implement the Pacific Herring Fishery Management Plan.

The Commission received CDFW’s evaluation of the petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network to list the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as endangered pursuant to CESA. The Commission will consider the petition, CDFW’s evaluation and public input at its August meeting to determine if it will accept the petition for consideration.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, the Commission agreed that the remainder of this year’s meetings will be held via webinar and teleconference.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioner Peter Silva participated in the meeting. Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Russell Burns were absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Aug. 19-20, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 20, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $36.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 31 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • A $343,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies to restore approximately three acres of migratory bird breeding habitat on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
  • A $635,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society to acquire approximately 22 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species and riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.
  • A $1.3 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire in fee approximately 201 acres to preserve montane meadow, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Truckee in Nevada County.
  • A $4.7 million grant to Tuolumne County for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), CAL FIRE, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Forest Service to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning and replanting activities on approximately 6,434 acres of mixed conifer forest in the Tuolumne River watershed located in Stanislaus National Forest 20 miles east of Sonora in Tuolumne County.
  • A $1.25 million grant to Port San Luis Obispo Harbor District for a cooperative project with California State Parks to rehabilitate a pier and boat landing at Avila Pier located approximately eight miles northwest of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County.
  • A $689,000 grant to Bolsa Chica Conservancy for a cooperative project with Signal Landmark, Pacific Life Foundation and CDFW to install new portable buildings for an interpretive center and construct educational features, an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible observation desk and restrooms in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve approximately four miles northeast of Huntington Beach in Orange County.
  • A $10 million grant to Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority for a cooperative project with the Peninsula Open Space Trust and State Coastal Conservancy to acquire in fee approximately 235 acres of land to protect a critical linkage both for movement of wildlife and for species adaptation to climate change, and the protection of a natural floodplain located in Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County.
  • A $5 million grant to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District for a planning project that will complete final design plans for Matilija Dam removal and for three downstream levee construction/rehabilitation projects as essential components of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, a watershed-scale dam removal initiative and one of California’s largest dam removal efforts located five miles northwest of Ojai in Ventura County.

For more information about the WCB please visit wcb.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 817-0434

California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

On the second day of its April remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from today’s part of the meeting (see information from yesterday).

The Commission acknowledged robust public participation using remote technology.FGC Logo

“While we all are learning this remote world together, this meeting proved that government can continue with public input,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “Governor Newsom recently said we expect a mid-May peak of COVID-19. I implore Californians to stay healthy and stay home to help save lives.”

The Commission approved the mammal hunting regulations and increased the number of elk tags in the northwest management unit. This increased hunting opportunity for the state’s hunting public, based on the best-available scientific data, is due to robust elk populations in this part of the state. The recovery of these elk is a great success story in California wildlife conservation.

The Commission approved the waterfowl daily and seasonal limits for ducks and geese for the 2020-21 hunting season. The northern pintail limit will remain at one pintail per day due to the current status of the population. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the models to address the public’s concerns that pintail limits are too low.

The Commission adopted proposed regulations for public use on CDFW lands, including wildlife areas and ecological reserves. The regulations designate one new wildlife area and seven new ecological reserves, remove areas from the regulations where CDFW no longer has management authority, authorize site-specific public uses and make minor changes to clarify the regulations.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of the Shasta snow-wreath may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by CDFW.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of an evolutionarily significant unit of mountain lions may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by the CDFW.

Commission President Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray, and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva participated in the call.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is a teleconference scheduled for May 14, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

Help Prevent Wildlife Extinction When Filing Your Tax Return

Extinction is forever, but you and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can join forces to prevent it. Help save California’s native plant and animal species when you file your state income tax return by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and/or the California Sea Otter Fund.

Just enter any dollar amount you wish on line 403 for rare and endangered species and on line 410 for southern sea otters. Money donated by California’s taxpayers supports programs that benefit these at-risk species, while also helping to conserve many other species.

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Even a small donation will make a difference. Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds for efforts to conserve threatened and endangered species and their habitats.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program have funded work benefiting California’s imperiled plants, wildlife and fish since 1983, and the funds have enabled CDFW to collaborate with many other organizations to conserve native species. With 311 state-listed species to recover, plus an additional 143 species that are only federally listed, there is much work to be done as we strive to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems.

Recent recovery actions by CDFW and other partners include projects to save giant garter snakes, Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders, foothill yellow-legged frogs, Mohave ground squirrels, riparian brush rabbits and California condors. These projects include:

  • Restoring freshwater marsh habitat for an isolated population of the threatened giant garter snake that was once the most robust site in the species’ range but suffered a 90 percent decline during the last drought.
  • Planning recovery actions for the endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, including introductions into currently unoccupied habitat.
  • Completed a Status Review report for the foothill yellow-legged frog in 2019 that resulted in listing 5 of 6 genetic clades under the California Endangered Species Act, and currently working with multiple partners on ways to conserve and recover the species.
  • Completed a Conservation Strategy report for the Mohave ground squirrel in 2019 that will help guide conservation and recovery actions for this desert-dwelling species which still faces the ongoing threat of habitat loss due to urban and rural development, agriculture, military operations, energy development, transportation infrastructure and mining.
  • Completed a Five-Year Species Review report in February 2020 for the listed riparian brush rabbit which recommended retaining state-endangered status. The report noted that management for the species must address the range-wide risk of flooding by securing flood-safe riparian habitat adjacent to existing local populations.
  • CDFW continued to work with the California condor recovery group to help increase the number of condors in the wild in California, Baja, Arizona and Utah. In California, the wild, free-flying population size of this iconic and highly endangered species was estimated at 200 birds in 2019. Throughout the range of the species, the wild population has steadily risen from 181 in 2010, to 337 in 2019.

Additionally, last year, the voluntary donations for rare and endangered species helped fund surveys and monitoring for some of California’s most imperiled but also less-studied plant species, including the tiny and beautiful Clara Hunt’s milkvetch, which is only known to grow at six small populations in Napa and Sonoma counties, and the San Bernardino bluegrass, a rare grass that is only found in moist meadows in some Southern California mountains.

Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy to benefit our Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population. This smallest of marine mammals once lived in nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as Humboldt, Tomales, San Francisco and Morro bays. Now only about 3,000 sea otters occupy a much smaller range. They are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and state regulations.

CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions to protect them.

The Coastal Conservancy uses its portion of your donations for grants supporting research and conservation actions that facilitate sea otter recovery. Some of that research has investigated factors limiting population growth and opportunities for range expansion to facilitate population recovery, and conservation actions have included efforts to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let them know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return, go to the Contributions section (Side 4 of Form 540) to make a voluntary contribution. Thank you for helping to save our most vulnerable plant and wildlife species for their ecological values and for enjoyment by future generations.

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Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726

Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Jeb Bjerke, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 376-8675 
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714